Michael Strogoff HTML version

5. The Two Announcements
NIJNI-NOVGOROD, Lower Novgorod, situate at the junction of the Volga and the
Oka, is the chief town in the district of the same name. It was here that Michael
Strogoff was obliged to leave the railway, which at the time did not go beyond
that town. Thus, as he advanced, his traveling would become first less speedy
and then less safe.
Nijni-Novgorod, the fixed population of which is only from thirty to thirty-five
thousand inhabitants, contained at that time more than three hundred thousand;
that is to say, the population was increased tenfold. This addition was in
consequence of the celebrated fair, which was held within the walls for three
weeks. Formerly Makariew had the benefit of this concourse of traders, but since
1817 the fair had been removed to Nijni-Novgorod.
Even at the late hour at which Michael Strogoff left the platform, there was still a
large number of people in the two towns, separated by the stream of the Volga,
which compose Nijni-Novgorod. The highest of these is built on a steep rock. and
defended by a fort called in Russia "kreml."
Michael Strogoff expected some trouble in finding a hotel, or even an inn, to suit
him. As he had not to start immediately, for he was going to take a steamer, he
was compelled to look out for some lodging; but, before doing so, he wished to
know exactly the hour at which the steamboat would start. He went to the office
of the company whose boats plied between Nijni-Novgorod and Perm. There, to
his great annoyance, he found that no boat started for Perm till the following day
at twelve o'clock. Seventeen hours to wait! It was very vexatious to a man so
pressed for time. However, he never senselessly murmured. Besides, the fact
was that no other conveyance could take him so quickly either to Perm or Kasan.
It would be better, then, to wait for the steamer, which would enable him to regain
lost time.
Here, then, was Michael Strogoff, strolling through the town and quietly looking
out for some inn in which to pass the night. However, he troubled himself little on
this score, and, but that hunger pressed him, he would probably have wandered
on till morning in the streets of Nijni-Novgorod. He was looking for supper rather
than a bed. But he found both at the sign of the City of Constantinople. There,
the landlord offered him a fairly comfortable room, with little furniture, it is true,
but not without an image of the Virgin, and a few saints framed in yellow gauze.
A goose filled with sour stuffing swimming in thick cream, barley bread, some
curds, powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon, and a jug of kwass, the ordinary
Russian beer, were placed before him, and sufficed to satisfy his hunger. He did
justice to the meal, which was more than could be said of his neighbor at table,
who, having, in his character of "old believer" of the sect of Raskalniks, made the
vow of abstinence, rejected the potatoes in front of him, and carefully refrained
from putting sugar in his tea.
His supper finished, Michael Strogoff, instead of going up to his bedroom, again
strolled out into the town. But, although the long twilight yet lingered, the crowd